Bringing more than 6,000 hoteliers together for roundtable discussions seemed out of the question back in March, as we faced unsettling levels of disruption across our global hotel industry. But, SiteMinder’s Global Panel Series 2020 managed to do just that with 100 hotel experts joining the many thousands of attendees, from 12 different hotel markets, in a series of online discussions.
Drilling down into each of the 12 local hotel industries, the panel series offered hoteliers the chance to submit questions about their challenges and get helpful advice and recommendations on how to push forward when, at many points throughout this year, it’s felt like global tourism has been stuck in a helpless standstill.
And while that standstill has also felt never-ending at times, hoteliers and experts traded empathy, hope, and moments of solidarity during the series, with one attendee describing it as “a beautiful exchange”.
Table of contents
2020: A year of questions for the hotel industry
Common across all hotel markets was the theme of simply not knowing.
Will there be more lockdowns? Will Europe have a ‘normal’ summer travel season? Will a vaccine become a prerequisite for tourists looking to travel for leisure once again? And will the guest experience, everything from reservations to room service, be changed irreversibly?
In Europe, hoteliers were concerned with the post-Covid guest booking journey and the best tools and technology to make that easier. Contactless check-in was a frequently asked question along with using data to power guest communications and marketing in the ‘new normal’.
Across the pond in the US, Canada and Mexico, hotel operators wanted to know how much Covid-related communication is too much for guests and how to use newer marketing tactics such as social media influencers to keep their properties front of mind for travellers. They were also keen to explore any new-look guest segments in the face of varying travel restrictions across the world, and tips for helping guests overcome any built-up anxiety of travelling post-lockdown.
And in the Pacific and Asia, hotels in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines asked experts about the most in-demand value adds for guests when booking hotels in the region and how to give reassurance to guests that cleanliness and hygiene are a top priority now and into 2021.
Hotel bookings for 2021: How can hotels strengthen their core
Our hotel experts, including those from Tesipro, TripTease, Mews, BeOnPrice, RevenYou, Preno, SKNapp Consulting, Bamboo Revenue and STR, talked through strategies for recovering revenue and occupancy. Key to this was using the current ‘downtime’ to plan and be prepared for what 2021 could bring and at the same time look forward to 2022, where most markets expect a full return to ‘business as usual’.
While the recommendations from SiteMinder and the panel of experts were tailored to each hotel market during the online discussions, there were recurring themes globally:
- Keep your pricing steady
The experts across all markets were in full agreement that hotels shouldn’t be pricing their way out of low occupancy. Advertising major price drops won’t bring more business to your property and the experts stressed the need for pricing flexibility without starting unnecessary price wars.
- Think local first
Another common, and probably unsurprising, piece of advice was to focus on domestic visitors to your hotel now and think about overseas guests later. Switching over to a more localised strategy might mean also switching up your distribution channels by engaging new ones. But with online channel diversification often comes good results, so it’s worth the time to re-strategise and explore your options.
- Use this time wisely and creatively
In a strange way, hoteliers have been given the gift of time and attendees were encouraged by the panel of experts to use the time you have now to do the things you can never find time for. And dare to take on new challenges too. Improve your knowledge and skills with online training, get familiar with hygiene protocols, or rebrand your hotel if you’ve needed to and have been putting it off. Focus on being completely ready to welcome guests when they are themselves ready to come back.
- Embrace technology to make you stronger
Many of the experts support hotels with technology solutions and so stressed the importance of using the right tools to automate and optimise your operational processes to lighten the load at a time when stress levels are incredibly high. With so many changing situations, hoteliers were encouraged to make sure their data is reliable and use the available hotel technology to explore prioritised or additional revenue channels such as direct bookings.
- Continue communicating and promoting
Creating a clear communication strategy that builds trust with guests was also consistent advice across markets. Guests could be anxious about travelling again in the future and as a result could be more selective in their travel plans. Hoteliers were advised to dig deep and get to know guests even more and the problems generated by this crisis. Embrace empathy and solidarity in any marketing communications that present options. Despite current nervousness, guests are already dreaming about holidays and you should be top of mind.
Be prepared: Resources for hoteliers looking to 2021
Read ‘The new realities for a hotel industry in need of a reset’ report:
Everything you need to understand about the future of travel and what it means for your hotel.
Download for free here and use as a reference guide for planning your hotel’s 2021 strategy:
Recover with SiteMinder’s World Hotel Index
Sourced from our guest acquisition platform, the SiteMinder World Hotel Index provides data and commentary for the hotel industry at both a macro and local scale never before seen. Sign up here for real-time data at a global and destination level: